DocHouse and The Frontline Club can celebrate this week after the triumph that was last weekend’s tremendously successful Between the Lines Festival (1-3 March), which engagingly approached some of the most pertinent issues facing the changing trends in documentary and journalism today. The mission statement of the festival was to explore the key issues that documentary filmmakers, journalists and media bods face today, through a series of impressively programmed screenings and engrossing discussions. The highlight of the three-day festival had to be the jam-packed Saturday, with screenings including the highly personal, yet deeply comprehensive The House I Live In (2012), directed by Eugene Jarecki.
Jarecki’s heartfelt documentary starts on the ground from a personal encounter regarding the impact of America’s ‘War on Drugs’ – established under the Richard Nixon administration – which sought to stamp out a perceived endemic drug culture in the United States. This then opens out to a wider discussion of the inherent racism of the penal system where black minorities were specifically targeted and judged as being the root of the nation’s ills. By blending archive footage with talking head interviews, this arresting and moving effort is a perfect example of documentary filmmaking at its most personal and journalistically integral.
Also on offer on the jam-packed Saturday was Sundance Channel director Brian Knappenberger’s confrontational We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012), which explores the global hacker collective ‘Anonymous’. The documentary raises the issue of the power held by the worldwide web, not only in its influence but also the way it is ingrained into our everyday lives. Knappenberger interviews those most deeply-seated in the movement, attempting to convey why hackers, coders, network nerds and political activists have come together to buck the system, showing that even the world’s most powerful governments are ill-equipped to challenge the voice of the people in the digital realm.
Throughout the day, there were also a host of enticing, compelling panel discussions, including a debate entitled Selling Out? – Corporate and political control of documentary and journalism. An impressive array of speakers gathered, including entrepreneur and media consultant Paul Blanchard, Al Jazeera’s Richard Gizbert and former BBC programme editor Kevin Marsh. The debate was a frank, no-punches–pulled affair that beat out the challenges existing in the factual filmmaking and journalism industry today. The energetic and enthralling two-hour talk was just one of many high quality events that went on throughout the weekend.
When the weekend’s inaugural Between the Lines Festival came to a close on Sunday, there was clearly a hunger for more from the patrons who had gathered. It was impossible not to walk away thinking that the tantalising prospect of a ‘Centre for Documentaries’ (an idea already mooted by DocHouse Founder and Director Elizabeth Wood) would be a welcome feature on the landscape of both the UK and London film communities.